For notes and disclaimer, please see part one.

Previously, on the West Wing: More testimony brings back more memories.

Elizabeth, fifteen, was worried she would have to drop out of school. Josie, seventeen, was mere weeks away from her graduation. She was scrambling to find
a job. Leo was discharged from the Air Force and was awarded a purple heart at twenty-one years of age. He wasn't able to attend his mother's funeral due to the fact that he was laid up in the hospital, his leg in traction. He was angry, frustrated. He wanted to be anywhere but there, and he wanted to be working somehow.

Right when he was ready to thrash about in bed, and probably cause more damage to his spine and leg, a face he hadn't seen in years appeared at the door. "Leo?"

"Jed?"

"Hey," he said, smiling broadly as he entered the room.

"Jed! What... What are you doing here?"

"Josie didn't tell you? Good."

"Josie didn't tell me what?"

"That I was coming. How are you?"

"What are you doing here?"

"I came to see you. How are you?"

"You have school."

"Notre Dame just let out for the summer."

"So you came here?"

"Boston is a really nice city."

"Why?"

"Well, it's on the water. It's got some great history to it."

"No, why are you here?"

"I got your letter; I'm sorry about your mother."

"They're burying her today."

"Josie told me."

"I can't be there."

"You'll go as soon as you're out."

"I didn't get to tell her goodbye."

"You'll tell her when you get out."

"She's dead; she can't hear me."

"I think she knew, Leo."

"You don't know, Jed. You don't know."

"I do know she loved you."

"I was shot down. I hurt myself in Vietnam and I didn't even really know it. The medic suspected, but... If I hadn't fallen in the hall, I would have been flown back to Vietnam. They discharged me."

"With a purple heart. Josie and Liz are so proud of you."

"I hate this damn thing."

"Traction," Jed said, studying the setup.

"I didn't think it was this bad."

"Apparently it is. They don't put you in traction for no reason."

"What do you know about medicine?"

Jed smiled and laughed a little. "She's picking up your sisters now."

"What?" asked Leo.

"Josie told me the car was in the shop, so she and Liz were taking a cab to and from the funeral. Abbey's gone to pick them up."

"Abbey?"

"Abigail Kearns at your service," said a female voice from the door. An auburn-haired beauty leaned against the doorjamb as Josephine and Elizabeth entered Leo's hospital room, still in their black dresses from the funeral.

"Leo, this is Abbey. Abbey, this is Leo McGarry."

"Nice to meet you. How are you?" she asked.

"Confused as..." He swallowed his curse word. "Confused."

"How's the leg?" she asked.

"It hurts sometimes. I'd give anything to be up and moving around."

"I talked to your doctor. It sounds like you won't be here more than a couple more days," said Abbey.

"Okay," Leo said, still lost.

"Abbey is a pre-med student," said Jed.

"At Notre Dame?" asked Leo.

"At St. Mary's... which is right across the street basically, but, yeah..." Jed said as he wrapped an arm around Abbey's waist. "Anyway, get used to seeing us."

"Okay," said Leo. "Why?"

"Because we're staying here for a while."

"In Boston?"

"Yeah."

"Why?"

"Because this loss has been tough on all of you," Jed said, looking to Leo's younger sisters. "And because you can use some help. Spiritually, financially..."

"We're not takin' your money," Leo said.

"Leo."

"We're not."

"Why not?" asked Josephine. "The funeral was expensive, and came out of the last of our savings."

Leo looked at Josephine and shook his head. "No. It didn't."

"What do you mean?" asked Elizabeth.

"What are you talking about?" asked Josephine.

"Didn't you hear our objections?" Morgan asked as court was adjourned for the day.

"When?" asked Leo.

"When Carruth was asking questions he had no right to be asking," said Babish.

"You mean when he called me a junkie and a drunkard?" asked Leo. "Then?"

"Yes!" Morgan and Babish said at the same time.

"No, I was a little tied up defending my friend and myself at the time. But, thanks a lot, guys. You did a real bang-up job in there."

"Leo," said Babish, stopping in the middle of the hall. "You've got to do better than that."

"Do better than what? He's done with me now. After four days, I don't have to come in here and put up with his badgering questions that waste a hell of a lot of my time. And I don't like standing here with you guys, because you're wasting my time. I have to help run a country. Something I haven't been able to do for the past few days. If you want to talk to me, set up an appointment through my assistant tomorrow. Good night, gentlemen."

Margaret was waiting by the door with the day's messages. As they exited the courthouse, the press swarmed them. Babish and Morgan stood at the door and watched as Leo guided Margaret to the car. Questions were shouted at Leo, and he did his best not to turn around and start yelling back at the reporters.

Margaret, somewhat shaken, looked at Leo as he entered the car. "There weren't that many of them yesterday."

"No."

"Why not?"

"Because... Because it's trash day. They'd rather be here and scoop up this delightful, sexy slop than listen to what various press secretaries are telling them for their papers tomorrow." Leo glanced out the window and noticed that the driver took a wrong turn. "The White House is the other way."

"You're under orders to go home," Margaret said.

Leo looked at her quickly. "Under orders?"

She nodded.

"Given by whom?"

"President Bartlet."

"Margaret," he said, sighing. "I have things to do."

"You're meeting with the Senate Minority Leader at eight, followed by Senior Staff at nine," Margaret said, looking in the day-planner. "Nine thirty is a briefing from the Pentagon, followed by a joint briefing by the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency. Eleven thirty, you have lunch with Mallory..."

"I have some money saved up," Leo said.

"You what?" asked Josephine.

"Jo, you know I've worked practically non-stop since Pop died, right?"

"Yeah..." she said slowly.

"Not every penny went to pay bills."

"How much do you have?" Josephine asked.

"Enough to send you to college." He looked at his younger sister. "Gimme a couple years, Lizzie, and... You'll go, too."

"What about you?" asked Jed.

Leo turned to look at his old friend. "I'm now a former Air Force lieutenant who fought in Vietnam. I have a purple heart. There's more to my life than that?"

"A lot."

"Like what?"

"What happened to the guy I knew in school, the one who stunned everybody with the fact that he was just the 'poor kid from Boston?' You had some of the best scores in the history of the school."

"Nah, you cornered the market on that one, Jed," Leo said, smiling a little.

"On a couple, maybe. Especially mathematics."

Leo winced playfully, causing Jed to laugh a little.

"You should go back to school, Leo."

"After my sisters," he said. "After they go, I'll go."

"Leo--"

"No, I'll work their way through college and then I'll... Then I'll figure it out, how I can go. But right now, they need to."

Abbey, who had only met Leo McGarry a matter of minutes ago, could tell that Leo was putting his foot down, and that they wouldn't get anywhere. "Girls, are you two hungry for ice cream? I remember seeing an ice cream parlor not far from here. Soul food, I think... Don't you?"

Josephine and Elizabeth looked to Leo, who looked at Abbey for a long minute before nodding.

Abbey smiled. "C'mon."

"Liz, Jo... Remember ya manners, okay?" he asked them quietly. They looked at their older brother, and nodded respectfully. "Scram." Leo watched them go before letting his head fall back against the pillow.

"You should go. Won't you get a GI Bill?"

"Don't start with me, Jed."

"You should."

"After they go."

"When they're both done with college, how old will you be? At the very least, you'll be twenty-eight years old. What are you going to do then? What will you study? What will you do in the meantime?"

"I'm gonna take care of my family. I'm gonna keep doing what I've done since my father killed himself. I just wish I could get out of this damned bed and take care of business," he said, his frustration building with each passing word until he struggled against the traction.

"That's not going to help."

"Jed..."

"Yes?"

"Life is unfair."

"Yes, it is."

"Promise me something."

"Anything."

"Promise me you'll work to make it better."

"Leo..."

"I'm not going to blow my brains over the back of the garage; you don't have to worry about that. I'm just... Whatever you do, Jed. Make the world better."

"On one condition, sure."

"What's that?"

"You help me."

"...At twelve thirty, the President has requested an hour of your time."

"Just tell me in the morning, all right?"

Margaret looked up from the day-planner to see his fatigued appearance. "Okay," she said quietly.

The car pulled up to the hotel Leo was still residing in. He climbed out of the car wordlessly, leaving Margaret to feel incredibly bad for him. He looked almost dead. "See you tomorrow," he muttered before closing the door. The car remained at the curb until he was inside, and then it pulled back into D.C. traffic and headed for the White House.

Leo fumbled through his pockets for his hotel key. He didn't bother to turn on the lights. He merely kicked off his shoes, yanked at his tie until it gave away, unbuttoned the top few buttons on his shirt, and shed his suit jacket. Wandering into the bathroom, he splashed some water on his face and didn't dare look in the mirror. He didn't want to go through that kind of pain again--of looking at his reflection and having one of two things happen: he wouldn't recognize himself, or worse, he would recognize his father.

Stumbling to the hotel bed, he fell onto it, face down, and fell almost instantly to sleep.

He had known fighting would be hard. He just hadn't expected it to be quite this draining. He had lived up to the promise that he had made to Jed years ago: he was still helping him to change the world. And he would never stop.

End.

Series will continue in 'Castles in the Sand':

He held his right hand out to her. "I'm Leo."

"Jenny," she said, grinning as she shook his hand.

"Pleasure."

"Likewise," she breathed.

==

 

 

 

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